HARARE Jan 21 – Southern African leaders planned a new summit to break Zimbabwe’s political impasse, a day after President Robert Mugabe and rival Morgan Tsvangirai ended marathon talks without a deal.,
After 12 hours of discussions on Monday, Mugabe said he had accepted a proposal from the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc that would have seen Tsvangirai sworn in as prime minister on Saturday.
However a bitter and angry Tsvangirai left the talks – mediated by South African President Kgalema Motlanthe – refusing to accept the post until crucial issues were resolved.
"We came to this meeting hoping we would put the people’s plight to rest and conclude these power-sharing discussions.
"Unfortunately, there’s been no progress because the very same outstanding issues on the agenda… are the same issues that are creating this impasse," said the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
"For us as the MDC, this is probably the darkest day of our lives, for the whole nation is waiting."
Following the latest failure to try and implement a power-sharing deal struck between the two rivals last September, leaders of the 15-nation SADC bloc agreed to hold another Zimbabwe crisis summit next Monday.
But after several failed SADC interventions analysts were gloomy about its prospects.
"I think precedent basically suggests that one shouldn’t raise their hopes too high that it will bring about anything of substance," George Katito, a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs told AFP.
"It could bring some change but SADC has done little to inspire confidence in their ability to deal with the crisis."
The key sticking point for Tsvangirai is the distribution of cabinet posts such as the home affairs ministry, which is responsible for the police.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told AFP on Tuesday that the swearing-in of Tsvangirai and his deputies before the resolution of these outstanding issues would be "putting the cart before the horse."
Tsvangirai argues that since his party won a majority in parliament and he defeated Mugabe during a first-round presidential vote in March, the MDC should wield more influence in government.
The MDC-led parliament resumed sitting on Tuesday, but with the government still in limbo, parliamentarians had little before them.
Mugabe, who unilaterally made his ministerial appointments last year, told reporters it had been the MDC’s refusal to agree to the swearing-in of Tsvangirai and deputies that had led to the failure of the talks.
"We agreed to that proposal from SADC but MDC-T (Tsvangirai) did not. They came with counter-proposals, so the meeting broke down."
Mugabe said both sides would keep talking ahead of next Monday’s summit, the venue of which was still to be decided.
Regional leaders see the unity deal as the best chance for breaking Zimbabwe’s political deadlock and curbing the nation’s stunning economic collapse.
March’s first round presidential election was followed by a brutal wave of political violence.
Tsvangirai pulled out of a run-off, saying he had taken the decision because of violence against his supporters, leaving Mugabe to declare a one-sided victory in June.
Since then Zimbabwe has plunged ever deeper into crisis amid massive unemployment and crippling hyperinflation. More than 2,200 people have died from a cholera epidemic, while half the population is dependent on food aid.